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A Publication of WTVP

There are plenty of business indicators that help determine the direction of employment within the country, temporary or permanent. For instance, there's the Department of Labor's monthly jobs report, the initial unemployment claims, the unemployment rate, as well as a multitude of independent employment outlook surveys. Let's take a look at one of these independent surveys, the Help-Wanted Advertising Index.

The Help-Wanted Advertising Index is produced by the Conference Board, the same organization that brings us the Consumer Confidence Index. The Conference Board surveys help-wanted advertising volume in 51 major newspapers across the country every month and organizes the information into nine regions. Because ad volume has proven to be sensitive to labor market conditions, the results provide a barometer of change in the local, regional, and national supply of jobs.

The most recent index informed us it had increased in May, standing at 39, up from 38 the previous month. To give a little perspective, the index has been as low as 24 (in 1958) and as high as 106 (in 1979 and 1987). The index was 36 one year ago.

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising declined in five of the nine regions. The steepest decline occurred in the East South Central (-14.5 percent) region, followed by slight declines in four other regions, including the West South Central (-4.8 percent) East North Central (-3.3 percent), West North Central (-1.6 percent) and Mountain (-0.6 percent) regions. Help-wanted advertising increased moderately in four regions, including the South Atlantic (2.5 percent), New England (1.6 percent), Pacific (0.6 percent), and Middle Atlantic (0.6 percent) regions.

These results seem to match other economic indicators, which have showed slower growth in recent months. Slower growth still means the economy is improving, however. For example, the 112,000 jobs gain number for June looks disappointing only in comparison to the average of almost one-third of a million new jobs produced through the prior three months. Again, growth is still growth.

Though many of the results revealed growth at a more moderate pace, future indicators seem to suggest it's just a bump in the road. Even though unemployment remained at 5.6 percent in May, it's poised to go lower in the second half of the year. Hourly wages also held steady but are expected to pick up over the summer. And many of the independent employment outlook surveys point to strong hiring in the second half.

Likewise, the Help-Wanted Index was at the same level (39) in May as in March. Though this isn't growth, the silver lining is the proportion of labor markets with rising want-ad volume rose to 69 percent in May from 37 percent in April. If correct, the index forecasted it will be in the 40s and rising by June. By the time of this printing, we should know if they were right. Nevertheless, the indicators continue to say the same thing about the growth in jobs: It remains bullish. IBI

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